Solving the housing crisis

California’s inadequate housing stock has inflated rental housing costs while driving talent and enterprise out of the state. A housing crisis has ensued.

In search of a politically expedient answer, some elected officials have proposed rent control measures, however, economists universally agree this policy would exacerbate the problem — systemic barriers to new housing.

Policies like CEQA and the design-review process have been used by “not in my backyard” groups to stall and stop new development.

This must change.

Increasing the state’s housing stock would help workers and their families live closer to jobs and schools. With more housing on the market, economic forces would help moderate rent prices and can help stem calls for onerous polices such as rent control.

Encouragingly, bills have surfaced in 2017 to help encourage the development of new housing.

Build more micro units 

One of the bills, AB 352 by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, would keep cities and counties from imposing unreasonable size and density limits on efficiency units, also known as micro apartments.

Micro apartments typically are 220 square feet or less. To prevent the construction of these units, some cities will set minimum size requirements unreasonably high. AB 352 would prevent local governments from such size requirements while also helping prevent unreasonable limits on the number of efficiency units built near public transit and university campuses.

Because of their small size, efficiency units are affordable by design and can help close California’s housing shortage. The efficiency units are often modular, built off-site and then brought to the property, where they are stacked on top of each other, making for a quick and cost-effective addition of housing.

Raise voter threshold for anti-growth measures

Another bill by Santiago, AB 943, would require any local measure that curbs, delays, or deters growth or development within a city to now be approved by at least a two-thirds vote.

While many local governments are devoting large amounts of energy and attention to the issue of increasing housing production, there are others who been unable to do so – due to either a lack of will by the local legislative body or by constituent groups within those localities.

AB 943 would limit the abilities of those at the local level to implement development moratoriums or to further stymie statewide efforts to lift Californians out of poverty and into better socio-economic circumstances.

Add teeth to housing mandates

AB 678 by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra would strengthen California’s Housing Accountability Act. The act requires that local governments follow certain legal mandates before denying housing projects that comply with their general plan and zoning rules.

Unfortunately, there are no penalties for local governments when they fail to comply with the act.